There has been much talk round about the internets, in lefty circles, about impeaching the President. Indeed, there has been a fair amount of consternation about the failure of the Democrats to get cracking on this and start impeaching the man ASAP. Now I am no fan of Mr Bush's, and agree fully that the sooner he leaves office the better. Immediately does seem too long a wait, and two years is hard to imagine. However, those dreaming of impeachment need to keep a few things in mind.
The first thing to consider is the Constitution and what it actually says about impeachment. Specifically, it says:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. [emphasis added]
Now he can be impeached, as Clinton was, with a simple majority vote in the House. However, he can also stay in office, like Clinton did, with anything less than two-thirds of the Senators voting to convict. So keep in mind two things (sorry for the repetition, but it is important)
- We need to have two-thirds of the Senate willing to vote for conviction to remove him
- Any attempt to remove him from office that fails, will make him much, much stronger than he is now.
Things can still get a lot worse if an attempt has been made to remove him from office and that attempt fails. For George Bush to do harm to this country he needs to have people in the executive branch do things he orders. Many people will obey Bush's illegal orders if he is strong and secure who will resist them when he is weak. Attempting, and failing, to remove him will embolden those people.
This brings me to the current set of bills the Democrats are putting forth that many folks argue are too little, too weak. Consider this, if we can't get two-thirds of the Senate to vote for a non-binding resolution expressing Senate disagreement with the President on Iraq, or two-thirds willing to override a Presidential veto on funding, then there is no chance is Hell that we will get two-thirds for impeachment. However, if the Democrats can get a growing number of Republicans to vote for these lesser things, and if the Republican disaffection with Mr. Bush keeps growing, and Mr. Bush's popularity keeps falling, then the possibility of veto proof majorities for truly restrictive legislation become possible. I think that it is this process that the Democrats are starting and that this process is the only chance to rein the President in. The flip side of this argument is that if the votes to impeach the President ever do materialize in the Senate then the votes to tie his hands with legislation will already have been present for some time.
As an aside, the reality is that given what the Constitution says on the subject of impeachment and the party distribution in the Senate, the question of impeachment is entirely in the hands of the Republicans. That is just the way things are. We need to work within the political reality that exists, not the one we wish existed. We are, recall, the reality based community.